Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bad Blogger: Frustration is not a muse

I'm sure there are some people out there who can fire off an e-mail or a blog post when they're in the thick of anger and frustration and somehow manage to remain coherent, intellectual and thoughtful. Once upon a time, I think I was one of those people (specifically: when I was breaking up with really awful people in romantic and friendship arrangements. Man, I could make people HURT.). Now, not so much. Perhaps there is some small sliver of hope in my old and haggered soul which permits people the opportunity to be saved from my Leonine tempestuous rages. Perhaps I lack confidence in my ability to succinctly and intelligently convey my thoughts and feelings on the page. Perhaps this platform prevents me from engaging in full disclosure, because everyone and anyone can react *with words* to what I'm saying. Nevertheless, I have been very frustrated lately and subsequently have avoided any vulnerability that this blog could provide.

Now I'm sure you're saying, "OH JESUS Meaghan, just post recipes and your favorite Etsy links and stop being so sensitive." After a gesture of kindess and goodwill (note: the gesture is neither kind nor good, mmkay) in your general direction, I will tell you that when I am stuck in a bout of anger, I'm not particularly moved to care about the things that I consider frivolous. Recipe Tuesdays and fun crafty bits are included in that frivolty as I am under no illusions that they sustain my soul in an enduringly satisfying way. I am nothing if not an overthinker and constant analyzer, and despite the gargantuan size of my head, I cannot handle more than one task when the primary focus is giving a shit about other people.

What the hell am I talking about and why am I always writing two paragraph-long introductions? I suppose the psychological explanation is that I'm a disclaimer junkie...in order to not offend anyone, I issue a litany of disclaimers so as to confuse you with my brain warfare and make you nod your head in agreement once I get to the meaty stuff. Right? Oh, no. In all honesty, I'm kind of wimp and coming right out and saying that I didn't apply to Crafty Bastards and that I'm considering ending my relationship with Etsy makes me feel scared. But I did that, and I'm thinking of doing the other and I have some very fundamental and important reasons why. The acknowledgment of privilege, and subsequently the acknowledgment of diversity, is much more important to me than playing the "game" of mainstream/indie crafts and feeling like I belong to the pack.

I've posted a series of mini-diatribes about these topics...diversity, racism, and the general disinterest the crafty movement At Large seems to have in uplifting people who might not fit into the standard mold of "crafter". I think that Etsy and many other crafty machines are willingly and destructively ignoring the ability they have to be not like every other consumeristic and capitalistic machine and do the right thing by the people who might not have the same number of opportunities as other crafters. As it stands, Etsy's membership is 96% female, and I can only assume (with great accuracy, I bet, because I'm good like that) that the majority of that membership demographic is also heterosexual, cisgendered and white. THAT is a problem. As I've said before, feminism doesn't stop with uplifting women. And while there are a lot of women on Etsy and in the craft community, I also don't think it's inherently feminist.

When you operate from the belief that feminism is the fight to end all oppressions, and you also believe (acknowledge?) that all things are political and should be, to some degree, entangled with the fight to erradicate oppression and level out privilege, being a part of the Etsy and craft community is very, very hard. At every turn I do not see positivity and light, I see room for growth and change. The direction I (personally/generally) want things to move in is the place from which all of my energy is derived. In this case, I cannot be tethered to a movement that resolves to stay apolitical, that is systematically being absorbed into the mainstream machine (please read this article from Forbes which notes that Etsy has received [a lot of] money from a Wal-Mart magnate), and also seems ambivalent about supporting the oppressed groups that function within it. In my case, I am a queer person and I generally see very few on the face of Etsy or the craft movement who are out (or comfortable being out) and also I have received little support from Etsy or the craft movement when I point out this reality. While I am not a person of color, I will say that the lack of exposure on Etsy is lacking (severely). Also, the degree to which the white hipster contingent has appropriated fashion, aesthetic and even artistic inspiration is offensive.
Note: Last year, I did receive a batch of buttons and stickers from Etsy for a queer music and arts festival I was co-producing because they seemed to be drawn in by the allure of marketing to gay people. And subsequently, I have been an Etsyvangelist for years because I somehow thought being loved was enough.
Being loved, adored and generally tolerated is not enough. In my specific case, I'm not interested in Etsy or any other facet of the craft community being my fag hag. General technological and programming issues aside, it seems like no matter how hard we try, most of us won't be chosen to be among the Etsy/Craft elite. Daniellexo, Etsy admin, said in a recent Virtual Lab entitled Feature Friendly Tips For Your Shop, "Don't make it a goal of yours to be a featured seller." This further illustrates my suspicion that there is an agenda, if you will, a prescribed method by which Etsy selects its featured sellers and that quite honestly, no matter how hard you try, you might not ever get there. Do you understand how sad and unmotivated that makes me feel? I mean, sure, I could join ArtFire or set up my own selling website, or just sell locally, but I shouldn't have to constantly choose. I shouldn't have to inconvenience myself nor should any other person who has the shoe of oppression smashed in their face constantly have to move on or away from things that perpetually disregard their (our) very real, uh, realities. Don't you get it? This is why oppression is bad...because it doesn't, in the end, help anyone.

Conforming to that persistent uphill climb that Etsy and the craft community establishes for people, and striving to be successful (also "happy", "positive", "optimistic"...as though I am none of these things already) according to their terms, and only really being the recipient of mondo sales and exposure IF I'm on the right page at the right time is EXHAUSTING. And it's also devaluing. Because if we're all artists, to some degree, conforming to the popular machine should be the least of our worries. At this point, I'm considering making it the least of mine.

**While I support an open dialogue on my blog and in my life, the one thing I will not tolerate here is face-fanning offense and insults directed at me from basically anyone, but specifically the white, cisgendered, heterosexual women I have discussed above. Consider the fact that my experience is in many ways radically different than yours. Also, consider that this is my space and that there is a general expectation that you would, at least, take into consideration the fact that I have very carefully constructed my own personal dogma and that devaluing that, in many ways, is akin to taking a crap on my doorstep. Which, as we all know, does nothing to support your perspective in the end.


  1. I agree with you, and I completely see where you are coming from. I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately, as I have been diving into more of the crafty culture.

    I realized recently that all of the craft books that I love are published by white, heterosexual women. As far as I know, the blogs I read are also published by the same group.

    I am a white lesbian, and I can't help but feel like I don't quite fit into that world. I bake, sew, knit, quilt, stitch, etc, but yet I feel as though I don't match the criteria to really be a part of the new crafting community.

    I am excited to have found your blog, because I want to know that there are lesbians like me, women who want to stay at home and raise children someday! Or at least sew and bake all day, maybe not have children. My lesbian friends don't understand this, and my straight friends can't figure it out either.

    We apparently just need to make our own queer crafts handbook!

    Thanks for posting -- I look forward to browsing your blog.

  2. sigh thanks so much for saying this i share your frustration as a queer artist trying to navigate this hetero normative crafting world and oh it is sooooo VERY different than my queer crafting world in SF. I get very frustrated all the time which i think is healthy and normal and it's nice to know i'm not the only one.


  3. Sticky Thimbles & Tikikiki -

    Thanks so much for commenting! You know, in the barrage of heteronormative/heterosexual wedding nonsense, or skinny white girls in handmade fashion, or just comments about "hubby" this and that, I don't know why it's such a shock to people that we feel excluded or at least alienated from the pack.

    I'm very very grateful that you found my blog, and I hope that we can all work to build a strong community of crafters that's focused on uplifting and supporting folks of all ilks. I also hope that Etsy and other craft sites take into account our feelings and our words, because though we're a small facet, to ignore oppressed groups in a business sense is very, very risky.

    xo to you both!

  4. I have been feeling similarly angry, indignant, and enflamed about a number of topics lately. This great post quoting Audre Lorde on Hermana, Resist was exactly what I needed to read today.

    Keep resisting, this is a very necessary fight and a symptom of much broader cultural norms outside of the confines of Etsy.

  5. it sucks that you're frustrated. before meeting you, i had no idea that such issues existed on Etsy. thanks for shedding a light on this.

    you are a very talented crafter, so i urge you to continue what you're doing and keep on raising awareness! i love the things that you write and i support you all the way!

    does this make any sense?

  6. Hi Meaghan

    Sorry to hear you've been so frustrated lately. Maybe it is a good time for you to step back and take a breather. With a little remove and perspective, you can be clearer about what you want to get out of your craft activity and what you can try differently to acheive it. Or you can decide to walk away. It's totally legitmate and very understandable to walk away from something that is making you unhappy.

    From a purely pragmatic perspective, if what you want is a visibly diverse craft community, there are positive actions you can take to make that happen. You are a fantastic writer. Why not pitch to the Storque an article about queer craft on Etsy? I think waiting around to get 'chosen' by Etsy staff or anyone else, really can be a miserable experience, but isn't the whole point of DIY to not wait around for approval, to just get out there and make shit happen? Write the articles you want to read! Profile minority crafters and artists on your blog. Write an essay for a craft mag about how your queer identity influences your craft practice. Write an essay for a queer mag about how your craft practice influences your queer identity. If those mags don't exist, make your own-- write a zine! Start a queer craft mafia or co-op and be a presence at craft shows. You don't know how many people there are who are or would be interested until you put yourself out there.

    Whatever route you decide, I hope it brings satisfaction and pleasure and pride, not just at the end destination, but all along the way.

    Take care of yourself, and never hesitate to take an internet time-out when you need one.



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